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Archive for the category “people planet profits”

“Think outside the box” and yet we go to work and school in one

“Think outside the box” and yet we go to work and school in one 

The term “thinking outside the box” stands for doing and thinking in unconventional ways. Step out of bounds and away from the beaten path. Away from routine and what is expected of you. Words like normally, usually, typically, or similar ones like it should not be used – “try something new and radical”.

And yet our routine looks so much different. Our schools and workplaces are placed in rectangular shoe boxes, with little to no natural lighting and even less high quality air. Slapped together to maximize the builder’s and architect’s profitability. Enabled by having harnessed energy to a point where we believe we control nature by being able to climate control our working and schooling habitats.

Rule of thumb here is a simple one: Nice 90 degree corners are good and so is routine and standardization. Where does that leave creativity and quality of life though? Over 70% of working folks would love nothing more than a new job or career because their working conditions and overall career management are below par.

At school this is even worse. Some school settings are outright industrial in where they are located and how the buildings are constructed. They seem to be designed to merely serve the purpose of providing future workers for companies that will then provide a very similar working environment as the newbies were used to from school: the box type building.

What is the antidote? Well, even though it may sound clichéd, but it sounds like our business and school leaderships need to be the first ones who need to think outside the box. Creating a lively and inspiring work and school environment does not take much as long as everyone involved starts from establishing a suitable vision and mission around this goal. Then the tough work starts. Thinking concepts like this through will take time. With great preparation the final product will take a lot less hard work.

One such building (watch the background story here and here is the green building explained) is the one at Aerzen USA. The intense grass roots efforts of a few folks turned into a movement that keeps catching on.

Now think about our children and how they deserve a similar inspiring environment. If we want them to be able to think and act outside the box, let’s help getting them out of the truly boxy type schools of today. Here are two examples (Avon Grove and Kimberton) how some schools have already begun making changes for the better.

Ultimately the choice is always yours and this is neither my time nor place convincing you of anything. But think about if you and your contributions are only a mere SAT score, or some other number. If so, a shoebox building will do. If not, then please help for us all to start acting outside the box – and yes this pun is intended.


Nothing is ever truly communicated until it’s fully understood

The secret of making your point in presentations Ralf a


Have you ever struggled explaining something you are passionate about to other people and even after you enthusiastically explain it you get nothing but a glazed eye stare back? Frustrating, isn’t it? The problem of people not understanding you is pervasive – especially in business. A big percentage of issues are because we listen to respond and rarely listen to understand. The by far more important problem is that the people do not where they have skin in the game. There is no connection with what they do, who they are, and where they are going. With no value seen by your audience you can be as passionate as you can be, and yet, at the end there will be no tangible action following your presentation. Bottom line is that as long as you do not convey information in a way that your audience feels like will provide value, you are wasting your time.


So what can you do? About two years back I was invited on a radio show to tell the audience about my company’s management and sales philosophy. We have been very successful and our employees as well as close business partners totally see the value in collaborative management also known as triple bottom line management. I was so enthusiastic about it and yet….. it totally tanked. Here is the interesting result of the interview on Kristin Tews’ Personal Best show, (click here for the interview starting at minute 40 of the podcast, it’s the one dated 10/13/2013). I failed the same way in a “Unconference” at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton Business school where I led a mini workshop on the Triple Bottom Line company management style. One of the attending professors called what I presented to them “Utopian” and an utter theoretical exercise. Ahh! Well, welcome to Utopia I thought to myself as I knew that not only was it possible to lead a business this way, but we had been tremendously successful. Where had I failed. I pondered this for a good old while and finally sunk in to me that I had totally failed hitting business leaders where they would start paying attention. I failed to connect what kind of cost such an initiative would incur and what measurable benefit would come out of it.
As of late I learned my lesson and I learned it well. Now I dedicate time and slide space to how collaboration leads to a greater team member engagement and how that is measured on the SINGLE bottom line. Yes, the loosy-goosy employee engagement can be measured in form of revenue per employee, EBITA per employee, count of non-conformities, number of corrective actions, etc. Now I have the attention of the key business leaders and I can finally go over explaining the details of how to implement collaborative triple bottom line management.

Bottom line (no pun intended) is that if you want to impact your audience (your listeners) such that action follows and they at least understand what you want to communicate then you had better understand what their key motivators are. Only when you speak to how your audience will be impacted with what your are speaking about will they take action.


3 motivation and attitude improvement rules that are still totally overlooked and underused

3 motivation and attitude improvement rules that are still totally overlooked and underused Ralf a

Today’s post relates to our thoughts and how they either will let us feel great and motivated, or just the opposite. A thought is just a thought and definitely not who you are. Cool thing is that if we take a deep breath and give our brains a quick mental break we can always manage our thoughts. So here are three basic thinking rules for your viewing pleasure.

  • Laugh at yourself once in a while.   It is what you do, not who you are.

At the beginning of my career I worked in customer service for 17 years. The first couple of years were very intimidating, when dissatisfied customers would call and simple let me have it. Often times, I felt personally threatened or at least attacked. As a result I would try defending my or the company’s position, which occasionally lead to the proverbial pouring oil into the fire scenario. By staying on the defensive side, the customer would think I did not care and thus give him even more to yell about. Which in turn, lead me to dig in even further. Quite a while back, the company I work for sent me to a customer service seminar. Amongst other things, the speaker taught us about the mental approach of separating what it is you do for living, from who you are as a human being. He suggested looking at what customers are really mad about. In almost 99% of the cases people are mad about everything else but you personally. He also recommended trying to look up, and start laughing at oneself. Sometimes, we get so entangled in our daily lives, that we take our oh-so-important problems way too seriously. Customers usually do not take well to taking yourself too serious during a telephone conversation, as they called to get their problems addressed, and not yours. I tried this theory out the very next day with amazing results. Regardless of how bad they sometimes vented staying focused on the customer’s issues, defused the once very polarized situation.


  • Rather be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Looking like a fool does not improve your attitude and motivation. This rule I picked up along the way of getting promoted all the way into management functions at work. With the added responsibilities, came a steady diet of meetings. Meetings have become a staple of my daily schedule. All these people gatherings have a profound common denominator: they are based on personal interaction. The part I was struggling with the most was listening to what was being said. I was listening to respond more than listening to understand. Unfortunately, proper listening skills do not get taught in high school or during college. It was also not part of the on the job training program. So in one-on-one as well as large group meetings, I used to jump to conclusions, rather than waiting for everyone to finish the points they were trying to make. This was a very foolish thing to do. In hindsight, I should have sat on a rock, and thought about my actions a lot earlier. Then one day, I reflected on a meeting that had gone badly. I asked myself what I could have done better. This is when I realized my habitual mistake, of interrupting other people’s conversations. Changing this habit was tough but worth the effort. I look foolish a lot less often nowadays.


  • Choose your attitude! Be there! Play! Make their day!

The phrases above are part of a rule that I keep honing and refining throughout my life. They key to success in life is your own motivation and morale, as well as that of i.e. your family, friends, peers and people that you serve.   Quite a while back, I was watching a motivational and morale boosting tape called “Fish”. It struck a chord with me, as I finally was able to express in short terms, where motivation comes from. To me it always starts with you and thus with me. Choose your attitude well after you get up in the morning. This is a simple yet effective mind game; it really is your choice to either feel upbeat, or be moping around all day. Usually, everyone will most likely be impacted by, if not mirror, your attitude. Sounds like a no-brainer to me, right? Well, it is indeed tough and easier said than done. “Be there” is all about paying attention, while someone is trying to communicate with you. Have you ever done it? It sounds simpler than it is. After all, most of our interactions are caused by interruptions from people who just want a “minute” of your time. It is much simpler to half listen and to keep on going with whatever you may be doing at the time. But it shows no or little respect to your counterpart. But respect is what every one of us craves. Also, respect is a keystone of keeping up a high spirit. So give them what they need, without dilution. “Play” deals with having fun during the day and committing acts of random kindness. Jokes, even pranks or practical jokes go a long way to loosen up our work. “Make their day” is sprinkling a dash of servant leadership around you. Do things no one expects you to do. Walk in someone else’s shoes for a while; realize how tough her or his job is. It really helps staying focused on what is important in life.

One of my favorite and local leadership people I follow by reading his books and Tweets is Pat Croce. He was the owner of Philly’s own 76ers and also is a great businessman. Check out his book I Feel Great and You Will Too!: An Inspiring Journey of Success with Practical Tips on How to Score Big in Life. You will find a smattering of other great nuggets of advice improving your motivation and attitude. Here are two great video clips featuring him about motivation and staying positive. Discover Pat on Motivation and Attitude.


Living the legacy of the Triple Bottom Line – #PeoplePlanetProsperity

Living the legacy of the Triple Bottom Line – #PeoplePlanetProsperity Smaller FB

This is my invitation for you to ponder how you can be yourself and stand up for something. What is your personal brand? What will your legacy be? Are you just swimming with the stream, or do you rock the boat and swim against the stream when need be?

I am happy to say at Aerzen USA we have been swimming against the stream with a big payoff – high morale and an increase in business. When we decided to be congruent with our values of our triple bottom line (we want to something for People, Planet and attain Prosperity in the process), which is essentially and win-win-win scenario for all stakeholders, we decided that where we work must resemble these values. We have one of the few if not still the only Green LEED Gold certified manufacturing buildings in PA. Vendors, Customers, government representatives (local and international) as well as school students alike have been inspired by coming and touring our facility. It has been 7 years now since we moved into the building and we have had record numbers of visitors. The image and commercial impact used to be difficult to measure. One thing we could always rely on were the people’s reactions when they meet with us; they do mention how this has positively changed their own journeys.

Here are a few benefits if you decide build your brand in a similar fashion:

  1. Without having to resort to polarization (good vs. evil) you take a stand and tell people where you stand.
  2. You will be recognized as a leader. You cannot lead from the rear of the pack; you do need to be one step ahead at least with your thoughts.
  3. Thinking about this will almost automatically make you a subject matter expert. That is a good position to have. Only when you do solid and objective research will you be able to influence people.
  4. You will inspire people to do the same as you. You never know who listens to what you have to say.
  5. The more you practice, the less afraid you are about criticism by others. There are always people who value you and your input.
  6. All of this leads to a much richer and more balanced life. That can mean wealth too. The power of a brand fills the Web with business every day.
  7. All of the above leads to a great degree of sustainability.

Our building was featured in a PBS special a while back and our straw bale construction conference room was shown during the construction phase. Our section starts at minute 9.20min where you can see Aerzen USA’s manufacturing plant come alive. http://www.pbs.org/video/1088152802/ Do not waste any time building your own brand – do the things that only you are meant to do.


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